MSI 9600GT Hybrid FreezerThe Cooler
The cooler itself features a fan that is approximately 7cm in diameter and should provide enough cooling power to keep the card cool, even under the toughest of conditions. It fixes onto the card using four sprung screws, making sure there is an even weight distribution and that it's held nice and tight.
Noise & The Cooler in Action
Although no professional DB reading equipment was at hand, we can still use our professionally tuned, wolf-like hearing to give out judgement on the noise output. in 2D applications, there is no noise whatsoever from the card - it acts totally passively. Browsing the internet and performing general tasks with Everest Ultimate open to watch the temperatures showed how well it copes with heat passively. The cooler does a pretty good job; whilst it wasn't super cool- it averaged around 45 degrees- it was far from hot in computer speak.
Firing up ATI Tool and setting an artifact scan was the chosen test to see how well the cooler coped with heat. As you can expect, things began to get warm, and the GPU temperature went up a degree every 10 seconds or so. As you can imagine, after around 5 minutes the card was approaching 80 degrees, and I was beginning to get a bit cautious. However, when the temperature rolled over to 85 degrees, the fan whirred into life and saved the day. Unfortunately, something rather unpleasant also happened at that moment: the noise started. The fan itself is pretty loud, louder than the average case fan and the rest of the test system.
The plus side to this though is the cooling power. The temperature came absolutely crashing down, and after a few minutes the fan turned off again. When we say a few minutes, we really do mean it; the temperatures came down shockingly fast. The test was repeated a couple of times, and every time the fan came on at the 85 degrees C mark, but determining when it turned off was far more tricky. Whether it turns off after a certain amount of time after hitting a certain temperature or only comes on for a certain amount of minutes, we couldn't quite work out. Sometimes it would cut out at 45 degrees and others nearer 35 degrees. Either way, it seems to work quite well.
Having seen how well the cooler coped with the load, we had high hopes for overclocking. MSI were thoughtful enough to provide overclocking configuration for the core, memory and shaders within the display properties console. All you have to do is right-click your desktop, go to properties and it's all in there.
With ATI Tool primed and a few hours to spare, the scene was set. To our disappointment, finding the card's limit didn't take long at all. Because the cooler lets the core get to 85 degrees before the fan kicks in, the overclocks were constantly creating driver crashes (which crashed ATI Tool) whenever the core ventured towards this magic number. Once the fan had kicked in though, it is quite easy to pump more out of the card without artifacts - until the fan cuts out again that is. This meant faster clocks were only stable for around 120 seconds, which isn't exactly 24/7 stable. This vicious cycle left us rather frustrated, with only an extra 35MHz on the core and 42MHz on the shaders achievable. The memory was another annoyance. Due to the absence of any cooling whatsoever, even the slightest increment killed our system, so that is best left alone.
As you can see, the miserably small overclock we were able to obtain had only a small effect on the 3DMark 06 results. These were obtained using 2GB Ram, an E6600 and an Asus Maximus Formula. With that relatively unimpressive result out of the way, let's head over to the conclusion page where gaming performance is examined and a conclusion made.